The prospect of bulldozing a quaint single-family home to make way for a few dozen affordable apartments might make some Atlantans cringe, but a proposal to do just that in Reynoldstown could highlight the merits of an ongoing zoning code update that promises to make the city more affordable. 

At 111 Moreland Avenue, a few blocks north of fast-evolving Memorial Drive, developer Stryant Investments wants to replace one house with 45 units mostly priced for families earning well below the area median income (AMI).

The three-story project, located less than a mile from the Beltline’s Eastside Trail, calls for 18 units priced for renters earning 60 percent of the AMI, 24 units for those making 30 percent of the AMI, and three market-rate units. It isn’t a sure thing, but it has urbanists abuzz with hope for the kind of density that could make intown living more accessible. 

Affordable housing advocates and city officials, including Atlanta planning czar Tim Keane, have told Atlanta Civic Circle in the past that making better use of acreage is one of the ways to lower the cost of living, especially in rapidly gentrifying areas.

This kind of dense development, though, has drawn the ire of some residents in Atlanta’s historically single-family neighborhoods—the more suburban-style communities wrapped around the city’s urban core. In fact, most of the city’s neighborhood planning units (NPUs) have voiced opposition to proposed zoning code updates that seek to densify Atlanta, WABE reported this week. 

The ordinance proposals now working their way toward a city council vote aim to eliminate parking space minimums in residential areas, provide more options for accessory dwelling units (ADUs)—think little homes built on properties where single-family houses already exist—and rezone single-family districts to allow for small apartment developments.

The Moreland Avenue project, if realized, would serve as an exemplary model for the planning department’s mission for densification and affordability, according to Darin Givens, co-founder of urbanist nonprofit ThreadATL

“This is the kind of inclusive development that many Atlantans would feel much better about, in terms of allowing density near single-family homes, versus the $1 million duplexes with four-car garages that we see most often as infill in some hot neighborhoods,” Givens told Atlanta Civic Circle

The project would produce 225-square-foot “efficiency units,” according to Atlanta Business Chronicle. Priced at $1,050 a month for the market-rate rentals, $960 for the 60-percent AMI units, and $755 for the 30-percent AMI units, the complex would feature communal laundry facilities, shared kitchens on each floor, a lounge, and a picnic area. 

It wouldn’t be the living style some (e.g. wealthier) Atlantans are accustomed to. But it would represent the kind of accessibility that’s lacking for lower-income residents in the city’s fastest developing areas. 

Another source of friction, though, could come from Reynoldstown residents worried about the historic fabric of the neighborhood, according to Atlanta Preservation Center executive director David Mitchell. 

“The need for housing will continue to press the historic fabric of our neighborhoods, and this development is a very thoughtful approach to a desperate need,” he said. “Yet Reynoldstown is another intown neighborhood where our past is being challenged to exist.”

But the home on the chopping block holds no immediately recognizable historical significance, Mitchell said, meaning municipal say-so is all that really stands in its way.

This Moreland Avenue site is located in a federally recognized historic district, although that doesn’t mean there are any protections against this type of development. It could mean, however, that the developer will be encouraged to maintain its historic character. 

“The continued removal of historically significant homes and structures is a complicated rub,” Mitchell said. “A space retaining its identity and also being able to find continued purpose in what remains, again, is really hard. Something small can be very important, and we are looking forward to this process.”

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